LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers took down the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Friday night. The Lakers cruised to a 126-114 victory behind 37 points and 10 rebounds from Anthony Davis while LeBron posted a 15-point, 12-assist double-double.
But LeBron's press conferences ended up becoming a bit of a sideshow as discussion wandered away from the Nuggets and towards the NBA end-of-season awards. LeBron admitted he was feeling some type of way about how the voting shook out for MVP, and straight-up said he was "pissed off" that he only got 16 votes for first place. He later tweeted about it.
It didn't stop there, though. LeBron brought up several examples of how the voting for these awards are questionable at best sometimes. He pointed specifically to his 2012-2013 season where he easily could have won both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, just like Giannis Antetokounmpo did this season. But in 2013, the DPOY award went to Marc Gasol... who was then named Second Team All-Defense. Which doesn't really seem right at all, does it?
In the same interview, LeBron said that it was weird to him that DeVonte Graham got so few votes for Most Improved Player after going from averaging four points per game last year to 17.5 this year while Brandon Ingram ran away with the award by jumping from 18 PPG to 23 PPG. As with the Gasol discussion, LeBron isn't disparaging the guys who won the award, just that the voting system appears to have clear flaws.
And, I mean... he's right! It doesn't really matter if you think LeBron deserved the MVP over Giannis, the voting system for this stuff isn't consistent and needs an overhaul. It's important the NBA takes a close look at this because of how these awards affect the earnings of the players. Whether or not a player can negotiate for a max or supermax contract is determined by things like MVP awards and All-NBA teams. For guys at LeBron's level, it doesn't make that much of a difference. LeBron and Giannis and James Harden are all gonna get as much money as teams can give them even if they don't win MVP within the timeframe required to qualify for a bigger deal.
But for the players in the middle, it makes a big difference. One writer leaving a deserving player off an All-NBA ballot for whatever convoluted reason could be the difference of tens of millions of dollars. It also affects the legacy for players like LeBron. He probably should have become only the third player in NBA history to win MVP and DPOY in 2013, but the voting didn't shake out that way, and now that achievement is out of his reach for the rest of his career. He won't garner much sympathy for that, sure, but that doesn't mean his points about this system are wrong.
These awards need to be fixed somehow. I don't have any answers. But when money is at stake, it needs to be better than it is right now.